Perched above the Dee Estuary, with stunning views across to Wales, Ness Gardens nestle, a haven of tranquillity. Created by Cotton Merchant, Arthur Kilpin Bulley in 1898, who was responsible for introducing thousands of new plants into Britain, they are now maintained by Liverpool University and are still a major botanical centre involved in plant conservation. The gardens provide an extensive area of wonderfully varied planting, with south facing terraces and many water features. Finding a lovely picnic spot is easy, choosing is difficult.
The Wirral Way is a disused railway line from Hooton to West Kirby which provides a flat, car-free and scenic 12 mile cycle route for all abilities and ages. This route has the added advantage of having a Merseyrail station at either end, with regular trains to Chester or Liverpool and offering designated areas for bicycles, which are welcome outside peak hours. In my experience if you are intending to cycle the 12 miles only, the best starting place is Hooton. This option allows you to finish in the bustling seaside centre of West Kirby with shops, cafes, marina and beach. The route runs parallel to the river Dee with stunning panoramic views of the sweeping estuary, Hilbre Islands and the hills and hazy mountains of Wales beyond. On the way you will pass Hadlow Road Station, closed in 1955 but now returned to its original state. The village of Parkgate is a good stop for local ice cream and estuary bird watching. As you tootle along there are ample opportunities to unpack a picnic on the cliff side or at the Wirral Country Park visitors centre at Thurstaston. If you are still feeling fresh and frisky on reaching West Kirby you can add on another eight miles, following the coastline of the peninsula through Hoylake to New Brighton. Here you will be hard pressed not to be impressed by the view across the River Mersey of Liverpool's World Heritage Waterfront.
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